What is a Chemical Plant?
A chemical plant takes raw materials from refineries, and turns them into more usable chemicals for industrial facilities, or finished products for consumers. The types of equipment you would operate in a chemical plant to a refinery are pretty much the same. A pump is a pump, compressor a compressor, column a column, and etc..
Chemical Plants can run at much higher pressures and temperatures than a refinery. They also tend to have smaller piping and take up less real estate than a comparable refinery unit. A chemical plant also tends to be built up much higher, meaning the unit could have more stair levels.
Think about it like this, a drilling rig extracts the crude oil from the Earth. A refinery breaks the crude oil into different components with the heavier components being finished products such as motor fuels. A chemical plant take the lightest and most volatile components and turns them into manufacturing chemicals products used to make consumer products, such as plastics and foams.
As a Process operator, working in a chemical plant can potentially be more dangerous than working in a refinery. The process needed to manufacture chemicals often involves much higher temperatures, and pressures which makes our job potentially more hazardous.
Which is better, chemical plant or refinery. The answer is it depends. Your first priority is to get any Process Operator job. Apply anywhere and everywhere. Once you get your Operator job, work for 2 years before deciding if you want to try to move to a potentially better job or company. I think the single most deciding factor is the management at your job. Are you bosses understanding, do they value their Operators, do they care what you have to say, do they address manning the best they can, and do they invest in their units. Those are just a few questions that come to mind. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.